The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Review


Marvel is keeping it going with a second live action show connected to the movies. Following up on WandaVision this one is more of a down to Earth story with two characters still trying to move on after Cap seemingly died or at the very least is super old right now. Personally I’m in the “he’s dead” camp myself but you never know when he might pop out to mess with everyone. This one’s a good show and I would put it above the WandaVision show. As it all takes place in the modern day you can expect a lot of setup for future events.

The show starts with showing us where the two characters are at. Falcon is in a rough spot financially since being an Avenger and a top ranking government agent doesn’t pay very well. (I still have major issues believing this by the way. There’s absolutely no way the government could let this happen. Even without Tony there should be some way he should have a lot of money right now since being a free lance government worker pays really well and with the Avengers press and such that should add up.) He and his sister may even have to sell their boat which is causing a lot of tension between them. Surely Falcon can find a way to get past this but it’s going to be difficult.

Meanwhile the Winter Soldier is trying to deal with his guilt of murdering so many people back when he was a Hydra agent. He is going to mandatory counseling to deal with this and has been working as a vigilante to try and commit a lot of good deeds to overwhelm the negative ones. It hasn’t stopped his nightmares though and he needs something big to take his mind off of things.

Well, they’re in luck. A terrorist organization known as the Flag Smashers have popped up. They go around burning buildings and destroying property to realize their goal of “One People One World” Effectively, they are saying that the world was better during the 5 years when everyone was blinked out of existence and they want everyone to go back to that time. They are led by Karli, a super soldier who is willing to do whatever it takes to get this mission accomplished. Sam and Bucky are going to need to unite forces to stop her.

Right off the bat it was nice to see some pseudo Avengers action here. One of the highlight battles was definitely when they engage the Flagsmashers on the train and get some assistance from the new Captain America, John Walker and his partner. With 4 on 4 effectively you figure the heroes would win but they still get rolled up like a burrito. It just goes to show that they are still lacking that power hitter to win the day but it was a well balanced fight that went back and forth.

All of the battle scenes here are on point. There’s a lot of good choreography throughout. That said, Falcon and John feel incredibly outmatched here since they are normal humans dealing with super soldiers. They should be getting rolled every time they try to fight because the gap is just too huge at this point. Especially as in later films we’ve seen more of what the super soldier serum could really do for Cap. It’s not a level of power that you can easily match.

The show only lasts for 6 episodes but it gets to accomplish a whole lot within that time such as plot setups for the future and different developments that will be relevant to the films coming up. One character who was fleshed out really well here was John. I rather liked the guy and thought that Sam and Bucky were way too harsh on the guy. He really was just trying to help initially but all they had to offer him were insults and a bad attitude. You can see where his character arc is going from there from the start though.

It’s a classic Ironwood kind of path although handled with a lot more subtlety. By the end you can’t even say John is fully evil or anything. The fact that his emotions run away with him is incredibly dangerous though so he’s likely going to end up more like Punisher than the actual Captain America. Still, I look forward to seeing more of him. He’s a versatile fighter who was usually fighting against bad odds and still did well.

His 2 on 1 fight against the other heroes was impressive, so impressive that you could make the case he would have beaten either one of them 1 on 1. That would scale him to possibly being even a little stronger than Steve who was initially getting overpowered by Bucky at times although I suppose since then he had surpassed him. John does have a whole lot of combat experience though so it makes sense. To him the whole thing must feel unfair as two vigilantes are trying to take away the shield he got from the government. Mix that in with the other events from that day and he had a really rough time of it.

On the government crowd we also have Sharon who finally gets to appear in the universe again after being gone for a long while. She’s a fun character and definitely doesn’t seem to have an issue with murdering her opponents though. She has managed to survive for a long while on her own which has definitely had an effect on how she sees things. Sharon will be an interesting character to keep an eye on.

Zemo also gets a big role here. Yes, I do think the heroes busting him free as part of the plan was an extremely risky plan that could have easily backfired. I disagreed with it from the start mainly because of how many innocent people would and probably die die during the escape. It’s glossed over but they had to free a ton of prisoners to keep the guards busy and we see a lot of guards getting knocked out during the chaos. Considering that all of these villains were incredibly dangerous like Zemo, I doubt they would be taking prisoners.

So the benefits didn’t outweigh the dangers there. At that point you could easily be rooting against the heroes for the rest of the show and I wouldn’t blame you. It was pretty shocking how dubious a decision that was. Zemo’s a fun guy though. He’s certainly as villainous as ever but he does agree that the Flagsmashers are a big concern since the guy really doesn’t like the super soldier serum. He’ll be an ally at least for a little while but he’s not someone you can turn your back on.

Joaquin is Falcon’s main army contact and the guy does pretty well for himself. He certainly isn’t someone who is ready to fight with a bunch of super soldiers but he does well when needed and finds out a lot of info. Then there’s Falcon’s sister who is fun enough. She helps to keep him grounded and is doing what she can to stay afloat.

Now let’s look at the two main characters and the main villain. Falcon leads the title card so as you can imagine he is effectively the main character here. A big part of the story is his character development from giving away the shield to ultimately deciding to take on the mantle. You’ve probably seen certain shots from the final episode between the film announcement and the big deal it got but he will certainly be entering a new status quo going forward.

I would like for Falcon to get a super soldier serum of his own just because I don’t think it’s possible to compete for long without powers but maybe that is coming up. He’s a good character here and there’s a lot of nice banter with Bucky. Falcon does fumble the ball towards the end though with his speech about how Karli wasn’t a terrorist. You can understand the idea behind this and not rushing to conclusions, but he shouldn’t have used her as an example.

Let’s face facts here, she blew up several buildings that still had innocents inside, she was going to blow up a bus of government officials to send a message and she was just getting started. She was getting more and more extreme throughout the show so calling her a terrorist is fair. His main comeback seemed to be that she had a good message but your intentions and goals don’t matter when you cross a certain line.

After all, there are tons of villains who had goals that people may even agree with but the methods are what nullify them. The universe is over populated so you may agree with Thanos on reducing it, just not by destroying people. Adam Taurus fought to help give the Faunus equal rights which everyone agreed with but he wanted to do that by murdering people so it voided the cause. It’s the same thing with Karli. Maybe they can think of a way to make the world better but it doesn’t change the fact that she and her Flagsmashers were absolutely 100% terrorists.

So I think Falcon got caught up in his feelings a bit there with a character who had just threatened to murder his sister an episode ago but otherwise he was a fun lead. It’ll be good to see how he handles the mantle in the next season. Meanwhile Bucky is definitely the more down to Earth guy in the group. I would say it seems like he was nerfed quite a bit to make sure he wouldn’t just outshine the rest of the cast though. Based on how well he fought Captain America he should absolutely be dominating these Flagsmashers. Unless it’s 4 to 1 or something he just has way better combat experience and his arm is on point. There’s a 1 on 1 fight where it’s fairly even near the end and I feel like Bucky should waste the guy.

On a personality level though Bucky is finally getting past his old feelings of guilt so I think we’ll see a more confident version of him if we get a season 2. It’s no secret that I’ve never been a Bucky fan in just about any incarnation but he’s not bad here. At least I’m glad we don’t have to deal with the mind control and such anymore. Now he works pretty well as an anti-hero and the banter with him and Falcon is always a positive. His super rushed romance that doesn’t go anywhere could have been skipped though.

Finally we have Karli. In case you couldn’t guess, I was not a big fan of hers. In part it’s because I don’t exactly see her group having any tangible ways to make the world a better place. Okay, she’s upset that half the world came back and destroyed the world unity that people had. Since she can’t destroy half of the population to bring things back to normal (Although I wonder if that was the plan pre-Covid. If it was, then that changes everything) how does she propose the world make this situation work? She doesn’t offer any solutions throughout the whole show.

Presumably she tried peaceful options earlier based on her dialogue but we never even learn what her proposal is. She always goes right to burning buildings and beating people up so there isn’t even any kind of agenda that you can get behind. Ultimately that’s why I can’t get behind Karli because her group didn’t seem to even have a tangible goal.

There’s also a guest star that shows up here but I won’t go into that here as it’s probably the first guest star from one of these shows that I didn’t even know was in it. So that was a nice surprise and her role is pretty good. She gets to show off her skills rather quickly. Including cameos and guest appearances like this also helps to cement this as something really in the universe which is always nice to see.

As always Marvel delivers with a lot of impressive effects here. The show does really feel like you’re watching an extended movie which is always impressive. TV Shows have certainly come a very long way from how they used to be. It probably helps that this is a mini series. I also like how the events seem really important to the movies. With a show like Agents of Shield no matter how many times they may say it was canon or the show would have references, you suspected that nothing big would ever happen because the execs would worry that people wouldn’t watch it. Sure enough, Shield is basically not cannon to the extent that nothing there mattered if you just watch the movies. While the movies could somehow back out of the events for WandaVision and this show, I find that to be 99% unlikely. There just seems like no way it would be possible. The events here are massive which is nice to see.

Overall, Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a pretty good show. We have a solid cast of characters and a lot of interesting plots going on. I do think the two heroes did really overstep their boundaries as heroes and acted like vigilantes quite a bit. Not a problem as I rather enjoy vigilantes but it’s never really portrayed that way which is odd. You’d think they would be full fugitives by the end of the film no matter what results they got. I particularly enjoyed John Walker’s character arc as he tried to use the mantle well and be the best hero he could be. Whenever I see him swinging Cap’s shield around I do wonder how people don’t straight up get murdered though. Never forget that the shield is made up of Vibranium. You feel like a single shot would utterly shatter someone. I think this show has a better chance of getting a season 2 compared to WandaVision but at the same time the odds are still small since this will probably continue on into the movies. If you haven’t seen this show yet then I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Overall 7/10

The Lion King (2019) Review


Time to look at the modern remake to the original Lion King. The original is definitely a classic with one of the most impactful deaths at the time. I don’t think anyone ever truly forgets Mufasa. Well, this remake is mostly beat for beat although it does add a new subplot of sorts which I liked. In the end it isn’t able to do anything as effectively as the original though and does lose the head to head. As a stand alone film it is good though.

The movie starts with Simba finally being born. His father Mufasa is the strongest Lion in the land and resides as a King who was restored order to the world. The Hyenas don’t like this but everyone else enjoys the planet as it is. Animal Land would likely point out that this happiness cannot be sustained as even Simba points out that they have to eat their friends at times since the Lions are meat eaters. Mufasa explains they try not too eat too often like that though. Well, Mufasa’s brother Scar is not happy about this. He wants to be King and it’s implied he even liked the Queen but lost out. Well, he quickly murders Mufasa and tricks Simba into running away. Can Simba return to reclaim the throne or is it game over for him?

I suppose Mufasa’s role is rather small in the grand scheme of things but he’s always a fun character. One thing I really like about him is the amount of raw power he has at his disposal. He takes on a whole squad of Hyenas and is always ready. It’s a shame that he had to die here since the land had a bright future under him. I would enjoy an alternate reality path where we see what would happen if he stayed as King. That said, I do think he was a little too lenient on Scar the whole time. Ignoring obvious threats and such. I think at the very least he should have warned Simba a little more.

A good chunk of the film is the journey as Simba finds out what it is like to live in the wild. Pumbaa and Timon help him with this even if their advice isn’t always very helpful. They believe that life is meaningless which is…rather a depressing outlook when you think about it. They have a lot of fun scenes though and do have Simba’s back. Simba may have started out as being rather gullible and such but by the end of the film he’s definitely improved. I can see him being a fun character in the second film. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan in this one.

The best character in this film has to be Zazu. You really feel for the guy the whole time because he’s trying his best to uphold the rules and keep everyone on the straight and narrow. At the end of the day the issue is that everyone rebels against him. Additionally Zazu’s really just a little bird when you think about it so it’s not like he can fight. That makes him even more brave. Especially when you have someone like Scar around. Scar’s a solid villain as well. He’s got a plan and knows how to execute it. The whole thing is handled really well as shown by how easily he took over without firing a shot. Scar has charisma even if he lacks brute power.

Then you have Nala who is Simba’s best friend. She didn’t get a big role in the original after finding Simba so that’s why I liked the inclusion of a Hyene leader with an actual personality. They got to go at it during the climax of the film and of course I won’t turn down an extra fight. It was a nice way to wrap things up. Nala’s also a solid character since she was pro actively trying to save the Lions the whole time. In general the climax is a lot of fun with solid action and a dramatic backdrop. It’s hard to really top that.

One thing I couldn’t help but think about though was why there weren’t really any other Male lions in the pack. Part of why Scar took over so easily is because there was nobody to resist him but why was that the case? If there had even been a handful of guys there they should have been able to take down Scar and his obvious rebellion. In fact, based on how few lions were around it seems to be like the Hyenas should have easily invaded long ago. Their numbers are far greater than the Lions and they could just pick them off at any time. there is a strength gap of course but nothing too crazy there either. I dunno, but it felt noticeable.

The graphics are definitely top notch. You could really think that this was live action at times which is really impressive. In terms of realism it’s hard to really say that any film can top this one. It helps that there are no humans around of course but it’s super impressive no matter how you slice it. Unfortunately it’s still not able to beat the original film in this category which came out over a decade ago. The reason being that realism will usually be crushed by an animation style that just goes all in. The original film has more color and life to it. I still remember the comparison videos popping up everywhere and it is true that the original just feels a lot more exciting and looks sharper. It’s to be expected since it was hand drawn but if you don’t compare this to the original then you should still be able to appreciate the look.

I wouldn’t say any of the songs in particular stand out to me but they’re solid enough. The songs have a nice up beat flavor to them and there’s always something happening in the background to pay attention to. As for the fact that the film revolves around animals fighting each other, the film had a good amount of restraint with not letting this go too far. You can still expect some of course and we even have a scene where Scar is eating an animal while subtly threatening the lions which is pretty intense. That was probably the most noteworthy scene to me. In part because you can totally cut it out and nothing changes. So this aspect doesn’t hurt the film as much as it potentially could have but I think it could have jumped another star otherwise.

Overall, The Lion King (2019) is a good remake. It’s fairly similar to the original one with the extra fight at the end being the only big change I would say. Even then calling it a “big” change is probably an exaggeration to be honest since it’s not like it affects a whole lot. If you haven’t seen the original or you saw it a long time ago and want a fresh version then this is a good one to check out. Otherwise there just isn’t any reason to recommend this over the original so I would say to just go and watch that one instead. It’s always the risk with remakes. If the original one was better then you may as well just watch it again instead of seeing the new version.

Overall 6/10

The Hunchback of Notre Dame Review


The Hunchback of Notre Dame is definitely quite a bit darker than your average Disney film. Someone breaks their neck in the opening scene and from there it only gets darker. The movie does a good job of balancing this out though so it stays intense without going into super gritty territory. I wouldn’t say that it’s quite on the level of something like Frozen but this is a very good film. I thought it had one of the most memorable songs from the villain which definitely mixed in well with the flames everywhere. If you want a very atmospheric title then this is the one for you.

The movie starts with Claude going around murdering people as per usual. He manages to destroy a mother and goes for the child when a member of the Church shows up. He scares Claude into having the boy adopted instead. This boy would grow up to be known as Quasimodo. His body is quite deformed and so Claude has decided to hide him away in the church for all eternity. The Church doesn’t seem to have any qualms with this and Quasi was brainwashed as he was growing up to never leave the room. Still, he hopes to leave someday to experience life outside of the walls. One day he gets his chance and sneaks out. There he meets a dancer named Esmeralda and they become quick friends. Can Quasimodo keep this secret away from Claude? Additionally, Quasi may have to choose a side soon because Claude has decided to ramp up his efforts to murder all of the gypsies in the land.

The plot of having the villain trap and trick the hero is definitely a Disney classic. It wasn’t so long ago that I saw Tangled with a very similar premise. The idea is to manipulate the hero right away so that he just doesn’t know any better. I would argue that Claude is a little less obvious than the villain from Tangled but of course it would still be nice if Quasimodo has escaped earlier on to get into the spotlight. It doesn’t help that in his case the townsfolk probably will be pretty mean to him since they’re never happy to have someone who looks different. There’s a whole contest in the town about making fun of people. It’s not the nicest town so in some ways it’s not like Claude was totally lying about it, but of course we all know that his intent wasn’t exactly just. He knew exactly what he was doing the whole time.

As a main character Quasimodo’s not bad. He certainly means well and is a pretty nice guy. Things don’t always work out super well for him but he’s earnest. He does help Esmeralda when things get tough and at the end he’s pretty understanding. I wouldn’t call him one of the better characters, but he’s not bad. Then you have Esmeralda who is a pretty strong heroine. She does a good job of rebelling against Claude and making a mockery of his events. In some ways she’s a lot like Zorro as she uses her athletics to get the better of her opponents. The fact that she can actively fight is definitely very good and so she’s a standout character here.

Next up is Phoebus and he is a worthy counterpart to Esmeralda. He’s a soldier in the army who wants to do his best but gradually sees more and more how corrupt the whole thing is. Eventually he has enough of this. Once he turns away the guy never looks back and was definitely crucial in helping one of the families from a burning house. He does let his guard down at times but fights rather well. There are a few supporting characters like various gargoyles flying around but I wouldn’t say any of them were particularly entertaining. I understand why they’re around though as Quasimodo’s scenes may not have held up as well without them. He needs someone to talk to after all. I’d also say I was less than impressed with the main priest. He talks tough but ultimately doesn’t really stand against Claude.

As the main villain Claude’s definitely not one of the better ones. He reminds me a whole lot of Jafar. He’s more interested in scoring the main villain than in something more ambitious like taking over the country. He already has great influence within the town even though he doesn’t like the people. He just wants to eliminate the Gypsies at all costs even though he can’t decipher his own feelings. It’s part of what makes the Hellfire song pretty intense though. The villain songs tend to be quite memorable and this one is no different. It has some of the best background visuals I’ve seen in a song since Aladdin and there’s always something going on. So while I can’t take Claude seriously as a villain, at least he has that going for him.

In general the animation is quite striking and is easily one of the best looking Disney films. I dare say it even looks better than some of the ones that would come afterwards like Frozen, Big Hero 6, or Tangled. The colors are very sharp and all of the movement is on point. It may even be the best looking Disney animated film when I think about it. The songs from the Gargoyles don’t really rank but the villain song alone puts the soundtrack on the map as well. The writing is on point and so the film succeeded in all of the key areas. As I mentioned, the film doesn’t hold back on being quite serious as well. I was not expecting the opening scene to be quite so sinister and it sets up some tension right away as Claude is willing to do whatever it takes to win.

There is some romance in the film which I admit was not handled all that well but I was glad there was no drama with Quasimodo. He is satisfied being a good friend which is important. For Esmeralda and Phoebus, they only just met so the whole thing seems rather rushed. I think you could have axed that plot and it wouldn’t have really hurt the film at all. You could use the extra scenes to maybe show the Priest actually fighting back against Claude. That would have looked really good for him at least.

Overall, The Hunchback of Note Dame is a solid film. The movie feels very high quality throughout and the pacing is quick. The movie definitely goes all in on making Quasimodo deformed to the point where he may be a little harder to look at compared to other main characters but does underscore that he’s a good guy. The narrative irony being that the main townsfolk are the real monsters here as they eagerly go about trying to put others beneath them. The town seems very mean spirited in general so it’s good that there are some heroes around. Phoebus and Esmeralda will likely go about making the town a whole lot more hospitable in the future. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the sequel since by now things should be looking up. I suppose there are probably still enough corrupt people running around to keep on messing things up though. It’s hard to change the whole place in a day.

Overall 7/10

Tron Legacy Review


It’s time to look at the sequel to the original Tron. I remember how impressed I was when I first saw this title. The effects just looked flawless and the film as a whole really had a great high energy feel thrown in. The characters were cool and this really felt like the series was completely on the right track. It’s a shame that the third one is taking so long to come out. Well, the film definitely holds up and is just as great as I remembered it to be. It’s certainly underratted.

The movie starts by explaining that Kevin has vanished and so his son Sam had to grow up without him for a long while. Sam is now the chief for the company but he just doesn’t really see the point. He wastes his days away doing nothing until one day Alan shows up and tells Sam that he received a buzz from Kevin’s pager. Sam heads to the arcade and is blasted into the grid. There he meets up with a program named Clu who rules the Grid with an iron fist. Kevin has been exiled to the wastelands and resides with another program named Quorra. Quorra helps Sam escape and now they must think of a plan to get out of here. The main issue is that the heroes are completely outnumbered here.

Things tend to happen very quickly here which is always nice. There is no dead time here. The heroes are on the clock and have to do what they can. The film shows right away how much the Grid has changed since the first film. The “graphics” have gotten a lot better so the programs now look like people. Time travels differently in the system so it makes sense that everything has been updated. We now have more action scenes on the Lightcycles and disc throwing games. Those are still a lot of fun and I wish we could get more games with that kind of gameplay. It’s one thing I really liked about the Tron Evolution video game back in the day. It’s fun to watch as well and is just a fun way to race.

The hand to hand action scenes are also on point. We see one flashback where Tron was taking on a lot of opponents this way. I do question how he was overpowered so easily with the final opponent though. That guy didn’t seem so skilled. Of course I blame Kevin more since the guy didn’t do anything to help that time. He was okay with just watching the whole time which was definitely no good. In the present we get a lot of action scenes like this as well such as in Zuse’s bar. That was a fun action scene for sure and the mysterious right hand man of Clu always provides some good action.

As I already mentioned the film just looks great as well. The Grid really stands out in every scene it is in. Any scene in the Grid is bound to be a good one and that’s definitely really good if you ask me. Whenever I talk about films needing to have interesting backgrounds to help the story along, this is exactly what I am talking about. Legacy is ahead of its time in many ways to the point where it’s hard to see many other films topping this one. The outfits just hold up so well and everything about the film still feels futuristic even many years later. The writing is also on point here as we have a solid cast of characters.

Sam is the lead this time around and he’s defintiely solid. It’s easy to see why he has decided to goof off nowadays since with his Dad missing he doesn’t see much of a point in anything. It all just happened too suddenly for him. In the Grid he quickly gets caught up to speed and comes up with some plans. I’m glad that he wasn’t as passive as Kevin was with the ideas. Sam just wants to save the day and he’s ready to take some risks to do it. Kevin is a far cry from his older self. The whole battle with Clu just broke him I guess. He’s now quite scared of going back in to fight. He should also be ashamed due to the fact that if he had helped Tron out in the past then none of this would have happened in the first place. His Star Wars esque abilities are fun to see though.

Tron is definitely a great character even if we don’t see him a whole lot. We learn what happened to him since the first film and it makes for a great role. He’s still the definitive character in the series to be sure. I don’t see any of the other characters really coming close to matching him. At the end of the day Tron is just a really impressive character and the best fighter in the series. It’s the reason why he is known as the hero of the grid. Then you have another hero in Quorra. She’s definitely good and has several pivotal moments in the series. Quorra is a lot bolder than Kevin and certainly wants to help out even if she isn’t quite as aggressive as Sam. She makes up for this with her superior fighting abilities though. She certainly gives the villains the work on several occasions even when she is outnumbered. Without her Sam would have definitely been in trouble several times here.

For the villains I’d say that we really have Clu as the main one. He shows up rather quickly and gets involved in the action personally. Right away that’s when I knew he would be a good villain. Good villains aren’t afraid to get into the ring themselves. It’s what separates the truly feared leaders from the guys who just sit in the chair. I was very satisfied with his portrayal and his reason for fighting was also a good one. He saw some flaws in the world and was trying to fix them. At the end of the day isn’t that exactly what you want the program to do? The only miscalculation was that the program would be so effective in its mission but who could have predicted that right?

Then you have Zuse who definitely likes having fun with the case. He’s not the smartest character in the film though. The guy acts like he is intelligent sure, but that’s not really enough when his actions are so weak. When you enter into a deal with the main villain you should always make sure you have some kind of leverage or a backup plan. He had neither but it did make for a cool visual and a fun scene in general. Clu’s right hand man is pretty great. He’s a man of few words but really delivers on the action scenes and gets a great arc/final scene.

Yeah there’s definitely a lot to like here. The soundtrack is also pretty stellar with some 80s type songs spread into the early part of the film as a tribute to the original. In some ways it embraced the era more than the first film did. Don’t expect to see the present timeline much since most of the film takes place in the game. That’s definitely okay with me though. The game is where all of the interesting things are going on so that’s really what I’m interested in seeing and it delivers. I sort of thought the board would have a bigger role or at least the main one who seemed to be leading the company down a corrupt path again. Maybe that’s something for the third film.

Overall, Legacy is definitely a great follow up to the original Tron film. It’s got great action, characters, a solid plot, solid soundtrack, etc. It really manages to get just about everything correct which is definitely good. I highly recommend checking this film out. It takes place far enough after the first film where you don’t need to see it to understand what is going on, but it does help you recognize the various Easter eggs here and there. It was fun to see this one have so many tributes to the first. Well, supposedly the third film is finally coming out sort of soon so I hope it’s able to maintain this level of quality. It’s definitely a tough act to follow.

Overall 8/10

Tron Review


It’s time to take a look at the original Tron that came out a long while ago. It’s definitely always fun to have a Sci-fi adventure where you fall into a video game. There have been numerous series about this over the years and that’s because there’s just so much potential there. This is a solid film that has aged pretty well. Flynn’s still a great main character and I like the effects/atmosphere.

The movie starts by introducing us to the legendary company ENCOM. It’s led by Dillinger who got to the top by stealing all of Kevin’s ideas and making millions off of them. Unfortunately Kevin was unable to prove that he created them and so he had to settle for running an arcade. Since then Kevin has decided to devote his life to breaking into the system and finding the evidence. His time to shine happens when Alan and Lora pay him a visit to let him know that the Master Control Program is on to him. Kevin decides to try and free Tron but the program is one step ahead of him and launches the hero into the game. Can Kevin get back out of the system or is it too late?

The Grid is definitely a fun world to be stuck in. It may be pretty dangerous but playing through games like the Lightcycle or the disc throwing definitely looks like it would be a lot of fun if you ask me. The world still looks really good even when watching in 2020. The good programs are definitely on the losing side, but at least they have Tron around to help out. He’s easily the most powerful good program out there. He makes for some good banter with Kevin and the third member of their party.

In general Kevin’s just a fun character to have around. I like his complete confidence which you see even in his very first appearance. The guy isn’t even remotely afraid of going up against the MCP and has fun messing with the villain when he first hops onto the computer. Naturally he is a little less powerful once he is in the game but still does his best. The guy is always ready for the next move. Then you have Tron who is very serious the whole time. He’s really just about completing his mission no matter what and he must have been stuck in this game for a long time. They mention that time works differently in the game world so for all we know he’s been here for years or something which is crazy to think about. He may not get as big a role as you might think but he’s definitely very memorable.

Alan’s a good red herring here since you originally feel like he will be one of the main characters then he vanishes after the intro. He was cool while he was around though. Maybe not the most memorable but he was definitely on board with Lora’s plan right away. The film throws in some slight romance in both worlds but neither one really goes anywhere. I do think Yori going with both characters was a bit unneeded though. I don’t really see what the point of those moments were. Probably just to squeeze a bit of romance in.

Dillinger made for a pretty fun villain. I’m always ready for those CEO types. He doesn’t do a whole lot to make himself a memorable villain compared to other similar figures but is still a solid addition to the cast. The Master Control Program is a little less notable. I liked the presence he brought to the film for the most part but it was a little harder for me to take the design seriously. He reminded me a bit of Modok or the Kree intelligence. Giving him a bit of a more compact form to fight with the heroes would have been pretty neat.

One of the big strengths of Tron is how great the cybernetic world is. This is the kind of world you could definitely see yourself getting stuck in and not mind so much. It’s all pretty interesting. The graphics/effects are on point and the soundtrack is good. It’s definitely one of the first big “stuck in a video game” movies out there and handles the genre quite well. Mix that in with quality writing and you’ve definitely got a winning combo here.

Now, if I nitpick a bit here, I have to question why the Master Control Program doesn’t take a more aggressive approach here. It should have been easy for him to stop Tron and friends many times before they got so far away. He controls the sector and every program in it. We saw that when he launched the tanks they were able to deal a lot of damage. Why not make sure that the heroes he blasted were actually dead? Crushing the programs there would have been huge and you’d think he could feel their presence the whole time. I suppose the easy answer to all of this is just plain arrogance though and I suppose you can’t really argue with that. At the end of the day he just thought that nothing the heroes did could really matter and that led to his downfall.

Overall, Tron is definitely a solid film worth checking out. The effects are solid and it has good writing and pacing throughout. The character cast is definitely solid and there’s really a lot to enjoy here. It was a good way to start off the series and of course Legacy would then take it to the next level. Watching both back to back is a good way to really see all the connections and how much the Grid has evolved. The themes of A.I. growing sentient are still pretty interesting since we get closer and closer to A.I. being able to reason. Ideally we won’t all be thrown into the grid though but if that should ever happen just make sure you have your gaming skills on point.

Overall 7/10

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Review


After quite a while it’s time to look at the next Kingdom Hearts adventure. I enjoyed the 358 game quite a bit back in the day. The gameplay was definitely a bit simplified but it was all very smooth. The story was also pretty intense and it was interesting to see the organization’s side of things. Roxas as a tragic story right from the start since you know things aren’t going to end well for him. It’s easily the most underrated game in the series. The manga is a pretty solid adaption of this. I’d say that it goes for a bit of a lighter tone but all of the events still happen and we even get some extra development on Xion’s side.

The manga starts with Roxas joining the organization. He is a “Nobody” a shell of a person who died long ago. Nobodies don’t have souls and thus can’t feel human emotions although they can emulate them based on their life experiences. They don’t have memories of who they used to be although they will occasionally get flashes. The mission of the organization is to gather a lot of hearts to open up Kingdom Hearts. Once they do that the goal gets a little more vague but opening up the gate will take a while as it is. Roxas doesn’t feel one way or another about the goal, he just goes ahead and does it. Things change when he starts to become friends with Axel and Xion. He begins to see the organization’s true nature and wonders if he is really in the right place at all.

Of course it is a little difficult to betray an organization when they are all that you knew. Since Roxas has a difficult time with emotions he also isn’t sure how he should feel. One thing’s for sure though, Roxas does develop a real heart by the end of all this. His adventures and emotions are too real for that not to happen. Ultimately he does choose Xion over the organization which was the right call. He’s definitely a solid character for sure. It’s neck and neck between him and Sora for who the better lead is but of course Sora will appear a whole lot more during the franchise. Roxas’ role was brief in comparison, but memorable all the same.

I get the feeling that the author really liked Riku because he looks quite solid here. No complaints from me because I do think Riku is top tier. At this point in the series he has really become accustomed to using the powers of darkness so he even wears a blindfold to increase his abilities. In this series he was actually able to take on the vast majority of the organization members at the same time which is pretty impressive. He’s definitely a fighter who doesn’t do down easily. Roxas gave him a good fight but even this guy couldn’t win in the end. It’s nice to see the original characters looking so solid.

Part of why the struggle is pretty personal here is because both Riku and Roxas are fighting for good reasons. Roxas wanted to save Xion from her deadly fate. Xion’s death would result in Sora’s resurrection but not only does Roxas have no reason to allow this to happen, Xion’s his friend. He can’t just let her throw her life away. The scales are reversed with Riku since Sora is his best friend so he mainly just wants him back no matter the cost. At least they do give Xion the choice although it’s a very pressured one so it’s hard to say how much she got to influence this. Also, Sora’s soul is large enough where Roxas had to go eventually as well.

When you think about it the plot here is actually rather dark. Perhaps that’s why the manga tries to squeeze in a lot of lighter moments to help balance it out. Otherwise this could get rather grim pretty fast. Definitely makes for an engaging read the whole time though. The manga throws you a lot of hints about Xion and her fate from early on. The organization isn’t exactly subtle about it to the point where you think they probably could have hid their intentions a bit more from Roxas so he wouldn’t stand in their way. I’d have liked to see Roxas take down the whole organization which he maybe would have done if he escaped from Riku. I could definitely see him wanting revenge here.

As for Axel, I’m not a big fan of his. At the end of the day he stood down when it counted and his secrets played a large part in dooming Roxas. If he had been more open about what was going on then perhaps they would have been able to think of a plan to escape with. Axel’s decision to keep to himself was a poor one and it’s hard for his character to rebound from it. Xion also made a lot of bad calls. She also didn’t trust in her friends enough. If she talked to Roxas more then she could have had a better chance. I have more sympathy points for her though because she’s living with a ton of veiled threats against her. She also doesn’t want to get him into further trouble. Still not a great reason to keep secrets but it’s better than Axel’s. I always thought Xion was pretty fun and it’s too bad she couldn’t appear more.

The art is pretty solid. It’s not quite Shounen looking in the sense that you shouldn’t expect any big fight scenes here. Most of the time the fights are over in a bit or two even if they are serious battles. The series juggles comedy and action so the art also fluctuates based on that. At this point the artist is pretty experienced so the characters are all looking sharp and the style is refined. I’d like to see longer fight scenes at some point but that’s more of a writing decision as opposed to having to do with the art. From the cuts we get I think the fight scenes would work out pretty well.

The manga isn’t very long so you should blast through it pretty quickly. If anything I wouldn’t have minded a longer bit based on the final act. Once Roxas finally leaves the organization for good it’s one of the more intense moments in the series. His fight with Saix is an example of a fight that could have been extended. Roxas may be relatively new to the Keyblade game but since the manga takes place over the course of a year it’s possible he even has more experience than Sora now. I’m not sure how much time passed during the first two games. Either way my money would be on Roxas to take Saix out and that would be a really grand battle. The final chapters are intense either way so you better enjoy them.

I imagine it would be pretty interesting to start with 358. There are a lot of references to older events and such so while it would increase the mystery angle it also means you will have less reason to root for Sora and friends. It would probably up the tragic angle of the series. It’s always rare to get a video game about the villains so it can be interesting to see their side of things. Especially in a case like this where the organization is evil but the younger members don’t really know better. After all, as Nobodys they don’t have a heart or any emotions so it’s a slot tougher for them to choose between good and evil. At least Roxas and Xion proved that you can get past this and generate a real heart eventually.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts 358 is definitely a solid title and I’d recommend checking it out. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it beats the adaption for 2 or anything like that but like the game it makes for a pretty intense story. By the end of it you will feel like things are pretty unfair for the main characters. There really weren’t many options available to them and even the heroes wouldn’t try to save them. Makes it a little harder to get out of an evil organization when that’s the case. Roxas and Xion were really left to their own devices. I think if they could have convinced Axel to run away with them the 3 could have been ok for a while but at the same time they would spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders so in a way it’s not like they would have been living on Cloud 9 or anything like that.

Overall 7/10

Tangled Review


It’s time to look at a pretty big Disney film from back in the day. Tangled may not have soared to quite the same heights as Frozen but it still made a name for itself in its own right. The tale of Rapunzel is definitely a classic to be sure so it’s nice to see a full fledged adaption. The movie has solid songs, strong writing, and pretty good animation so it’s a solid all around package. I’m definitely in the camp that says Frozen still wins the rivalry between the two but Tangled is certainly a solid film that doesn’t back down to anyone.

The movie starts by showing us the origin of Rapunzel. Her mother was gravely ill so the kingdom used the legendary flower to restore her health. This resulted in Rapunzel being born with incredible abilities. Her hair has the ability to heal injuries and even to dial a person’s age back. It must be used regularly though as it can only stall the age from occurring for so long. A lady named Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel one day and hides her in a tower not too far away from town. I do question to an extent how the kingdom never found her but realistically I suppose it is a long journey and you can’t catch everyone. Rapunzel grows up for many years trapped in the castle with Gothel who has tricked her into thinking that they are mother and daughter. One day a thief named Flynn tries to hide in the tower to avoid getting caught by the military and is promptly knocked out by Rapunzel. Since Gothel will never let Rapunzel go, the heroine has decided to force Flynn to escort her to the annual party in the kingdom. Flynn doesn’t want to do this but it’s not like he has much of a choice. Gothel will have to try and tear these two apart while keeping the facade up but it will be difficult.

You’ll recognize most of the usual story beats. The stories are all pretty popular so the goal is always to just execute the ideas well and I’d say that Tangled succeeds in this mission. As always there are a good amount of songs and the film is always doing something interesting visually so that you have something to watch while the songs are going on. That’s always low key been something Disney does way better than everyone else. Part of the fun in the live action Aladdin film was how many different special effects they could throw at you in a single song. You gotta admit, a lot of films don’t really go the extra mile there. There’s also so much you could do with Rapunzel’s hair that it would be a shame to miss the opportunity.

Rapunzel is a solid heroine. I like how independent she is and the fact that she knows self defense. She did actually take Flynn down for the count when he first appeared rather than panicking or anything of the sort. She also hatched a good plan and made herself a quality deal. Rapunzel’s hair having actual super powers is another feather in her cap so to speak. I suppose her powers merit more comparisons with Elsa and they are fairly close in how cool each character is. Rapunzel gets tricked perhaps 1 too many times but ultimately she makes the right move. I do have to question how she was taken out near the end of the film but I’ll assume it was a cheap attack.

Then we have her partner Flynn who is solid and gives us a lot of the comedic wit in the story. He’s certainly no hero when the film starts as he actively robs the capital. His overconfidence is also what leads him to get caught as he could have just stolen the crown but naturally had to make sure everyone knew he did it. Villains striving to get the credit they think they deserve is definitely nothing new and often sabotages them just as much as the heroes. He gets a solid character arc with Rapunzel though and it’s handled pretty well. One thing that will always elevate a film is good banter and this one certainly had that.

Gothel works as a solid villain. She may be a bit on the obvious side at times with how she doesn’t even pretend to be a nice mother to Rapunzel. I’m not sure what her rationale is, but it’s not unrealistic. I wouldn’t have minded a more nuanced take on her character but I think the film didn’t want to take a chance on her becoming sympathetic. At her core, Gothel is a petty thief who literally kidnapped a baby so that’s the end of that. She also earns extra points for actually stabbing someone. Gothel’s one of the more serious Disney villains we’ve seen. Maximus is the main animal character here and he’s definitely a lot of fun. The horse is incredibly determined to complete his mission of tracking down Flynn and you have to give him some major respect for following the thief for as long as he did. Maximus does a whole lot to complete this task and it’s really impressive. He was definitely a scene stealer if you ask me and the best character in the film. You just can’t top this guy.

With good writing and animation to back this film up it was definitely bound to be as good as it was. There’s really no weakpoints to the story and I would consider it to be one of Disney’s better ones. One of these days I ought to write an editorial ranking them all but there have been so many Disney princess stories that I’ll need to make sure I have them all straight. I’m still waiting for a big crossover film someday. They’d probably have to stick to adding maybe 6-10 in order to keep the story focused but I’d definitely be game for that.

Overall, Tangled is definitely a quality film and one worth watching. As always Disney has constructed a solid cast around Rapunzel and the film is enhanced by the solid song selection and good graphics. This is a nice story from start to finish with a good focus on the plot and solid pacing. Rapunzel herself may come across as a little slow on the uptake at times but since she has grown up in a super limited environment by a character who is known to be cunning then it does make a certain amount of sense. You can only do so much when put into a position like that. I’d definitely be up for a full sequel someday. There’s definitely more that you could do with this franchise.

Overall 7/10

The Goddess of Spring Review


It’s time to look at a Disney short based on a very dark Greek myth. I remember having to read that myth over and over again as part of a deconstruction and it’s definitely super twisted the way most of those myths are. I never liked the Greek Myths because they all go way over the top on being gritty and unnecessarily mean spirited. Fortunately you can always count on Disney to shake things up and make the experience a lot more wholesome. That is exactly the case with The Goddess of Spring. It’s a fun little adventure you can just enjoy without any worry. The main character is a bit iffy though.

The special starts with the goddess singing as her creatures make her a crown. She’s ready to have a good day but this is interrupted when Hades shows up and kidnaps her. She doesn’t really put up much of a fight and her creatures get bullied by the demons. After being in the Underworld for a while Hades is upset that the goddess isn’t enjoying the scenery. He decides to grant her one wish. She wants to go home so he compromises and says that she can be home for 6 months and at his place for the other 6 months. She agrees to these terms and heads back home for more singing and cheer.

It’s definitely a little disappointing to see her creatures back away so quickly when Hades shows up. What happened to standard loyalty and defending your friends when the going gets tough? Now the goddess knows that she can’t count on these people for beans when it really counts. She didn’t do much better herself though. She should have tried to fight since she has godly abilities. Then once she is in the Underworld she doesn’t even try to say anything until Hades asks her what’s up. She didn’t really have a whole lot of agency in this special and was way too passive the whole time.

Meanwhile Hades is carrying this film as he belts out song after song and hatches plans. It’s quite fortunate for the goddess that Hades was a very reasonable character in this special. He’s not portrayed as a good guy since he still did kidnap her, but at least he is portrayed as someone who actually cares what she thinks. Relenting to her going home for half a year was certainly a surprising compromise.

This special is part musical so there are a lot of songs. I can’t say that any of them were quite my style. It’s going for a certain kind of style to which I’m not really a fan. The songs are more loud than engaging without any nice beats to accompany them. The animation holds up pretty well though considering how old this is. The animations are very fluid with nice backgrounds and it all looks very consistent.

Overall, The Goddess of Spring is a nice enough story. I don’t think you’ll end up re watching this one for a while but there’s no reason not to check it out. It’s only about 5 minutes and if you are ever curious about the old legends then getting introduced to them by Disney is the best way to do it. You get to the heart of the story without all of the extra details.

Overall 5/10

Brave Review


Video games based on movies always have a certain reputation that comes along with them. People just expect these games to not be very good and this is warranted by the multitude of games that came out in the early 2000s…..or did they? See, a lot of games based on movies did come out in that era, but I’d argue that a lot of them were really good. The Matrix, Spider-Man 1-3, X-Men 3, etc. These games were actually a lot of fun and then you’ve got titles like The Incredibles or Superman Shadow of Apokolips (Based on a show at least) which were also solid. Now there have been some terrible ones like Finding Nemo, but I’d argue it balances out well. Brave is a solid game in its own right and I’d recommend checking it out.

The plot seems to cover what the movie did in abridged form although I have not watched the movie yet so I can’t say that with 100% confidence. Basically the main character’s Mom is turned into a bear so now she must find a way to turn her back. Meanwhile there is an evil bear who is spreading evil throughout the world and corrupting everybody. If he isn’t stopped soon then there will be no going back. The lead has to learn that bravery is something that comes from within and the way to save her Mother may have something to do with this. The only thing left to do now is fight!

The gameplay is fairly standard. You start out at the Ring of Stones which is effectively the hub world although I hesitate to say that because there is nothing to do here. It’s a blank field you can run around in and it leads you to the 9 levels. Each time you clear one level then the gateway to the next one opens up which allows you to challenge it. There’s not really much more than that to do here so maybe lets just call it the hub. Once inside of the level the goal is to get to the end. This is done by running and jumping through the obstacles. You’ll have to beat a lot of the levels as it is part beat em up. When you beat all of the enemies the force field will leave and you can proceed forward. The levels are fairly quick and you can knock out the full game in a few hours. I don’t know exactly how long it took me, but it was between 4-6 hours I’d say.

In combat you have two weapons. The first is the sword which the game seems to think is your main weapon but don’t let that fool you. It’s nice and you can slice enemies up pretty quickly but there’s no reason to use it. The reason for that is you have a bow which fires unlimited arrows machine gun style. While the damage is slightly lower it compensates well with how many arrows you’re shooting. You can also run at full speed while shooting which is rare for any game. As a result there is no downside to constantly shooting as you are running. Not a bad idea right? I went with the arrows for the whole game and it was worth it. I didn’t die at all throughout my whole playthrough (until the final boss) which yeah that isn’t too impressive considering what game it is, but it still felt pretty good.

As you play through the game you will find upgrades for your sword and arrows as well as other costumes and tapestries which increase your base stats. You can also buy other upgrades at each save point which are pretty handy. They aren’t hidden all that far away from the main path so I was actually able to get almost all of them despite focusing on just clearing the game the whole time. It’s really not much of a time sink to quickly turn around and grab them so I’d recommend doing so. Additionally if you aim to get the Platinum trophy you’ll need to do this at some point anyway so what better time than the present right?

The graphics are fairly decent. It does look more like a PS2 game than PS3, but it’s not like the character models are blocky or anything. You’re always still sure of what’s happening next and there are a good amount of cinematics here to give you that movie feel. There isn’t really a soundtrack unfortunately so that does keep this from feeling like a higher budget title. I’d say that the main giveaways to this not being a big AAA game is how there are some re-used cutscenes and how simple the controls are. I don’t think simple controls is inherently a bad thing though. With good level design and a solid gameplay option you can really make this work out. Just look at the old Sonic or Mega Man games. There weren’t a bunch of controls but they were still a lot of fun.

If anything holds this game back it’s the length, but you can buy this game for cheap nowadays so I don’t think you’ll feel too badly about it. There is also the replay value thanks to the trophies which keeps this from being too short as well. Brave is just a fun game and it feels like a nice relic of the past. You don’t really see quick cash-in games like this anymore and it’s a shame. It’s not the kind of game you’d buy for 60, but it’s one that is always fun to stumble upon in Gamestop. It’s easily worth the price nowadays.

Overall, Brave is a very good game. I’m not saying it’s great and it’s not going for game of the year awards, but there’s really nothing bad to say about it. The ability to shoot endless arrows is admittedly very cheesy, but it does help this feel more like an arcade game. You can just dive into the game and take down as many enemies as you can. You can even turn it into a minigame with yourself to see how long you can go without getting hit. Some of the last levels will give you a nice challenge there and as I mentioned I did die a few times during the final boss. That one throws enemy after enemy at you so taking them all down isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It’s good reaction time practice since if you jump at the right time you should be able to dodge any attack.

Overall 7/10

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review


It’s time to take a look at the final Star Wars film in the main saga. It’s been a long road so we’ve been waiting quite a while for this one. This trilogy has definitely had a checkered history with the first film being pretty much a 1-1 remake of episode IV and V destroyed any semblance of Luke Skywalker’s character, but did give us some of the first fight scenes we had in a very long time. This one is definitely better than the last two films. It may not take the series to the next level, but it certainly has more positives than negatives and I would easily recommend it to anyone who wants a good action film.

The movie starts off by with the group scattered once again. The Empire is on the offensive as always and Kylo Ren is searching for even greater power. He has found a new spark of life for his army and they threaten the very universe. Rey has been training so that she would be ready for the next big battle and is closer to being a Jedi Master. This has caused her to not be as available to the resistance which does bring some apprehensive feelings from the other characters. Finn and Poe have done their best to locate more intel but they are heavily outgunned and need some kind of backup support. Can the resistance rise up to overthrow the empire or have they finally hit their limit?

Right away one positive in the film is that it has a very fast pace. Something is always happening and we get to cover a lot of ground. There aren’t a whole lot of action scenes or at least it feels that way, but the ones we do get are very good. Whenever Rey and Ren face off against each other you are sure to have a good fight. The series still isn’t nearly as good at the battles as in films II and III which is a little odd since those are so old, but the battles still hold up. I always like hearing the lightsaber effects and how they are designed as well. The Force abilities are also pretty versatile and can be used in many ways. The film did a good job of incorporating them into the action scenes.

Luke Skywalker actually didn’t look terrible here which is already a point above the last film. He seemed like his old self and I was glad about that. It’s always fun to have cameos from the older characters through their force ghosts although some of them can be a bit much here. One character in particular was a bit iffy since he really shouldn’t have the ability to become a force ghost compared to the others. We can assume that they let him in and it’s not like the rules are totally set, but it did feel a bit cheesy. It does help make this finale feel a little more special though. We get to see almost every important character and location in the series.

One of the film’s weaknesses is that it’s a long movie that does feel long though. In part this is because the cast can’t hold their own scenes as well as the original characters. Rey does a good job as the lead, but Poe and Finn aren’t quite as exciting in the B plot as Han Solo was back in the day. We get to see a lot of nice backdrops in various scenes, but the scenery does add up which also gets attributed to the feeling that the film’s lasting a while. It’s probably a tradeoff that is unavoidable to feel like a LOTR epic, but I think the film could have shrunk the length down a bit or maybe focused more on Rey and thrown in some more fight scenes.

As always Rey is a great lead. In this film she is really struggling with her past a lot and trying not to go to the dark side. It’s a good internal battle and Rey tends to make the right decisions. I do think her friends had a point that she was taking too long training when they could use her on the front lines, but the training did allow her to stay on par with Kylo Ren so without it I wonder how she would have fared. Rey not come out on top every time, but she always fights hard and it’s nice to have a Jedi who is trained so well for a change. It feels like a long time since we’ve been to this point. The scene of her dragging down a ship was impressive the likes of which we haven’t seen since Starkiller.

This is one of the best parts about the film in general. It’s great to see Rey as a Jedi Master who is pretty confident and knows what she is doing. I’d like to see her go rogue a little more and just wreck the enemy, but she shows us enough so we know what she is capable of. We haven’t seen someone as powerful as her since episode III so it’s been a considerably long time. The fun part is when you think about it she is way stronger than even someone like Darth Vader just going by the films, but his appearances came before the effects got to this point so it’s not totally an equal comparison.

Unfortunately Finn didn’t bring his A game this time. I found him to be pretty annoying in a lot of scenes where he acts like he knows Rey better than Poe. Whether that is true or not he comes across as pretty obnoxious. One scene in particular is when he accuses Poe of not understanding Rey and when Poe asks him to help get this understanding, Finn just doesn’t bother helping out. It’s like telling someone that they don’t know the right answer and you do, but then not giving it to them when asked. In general I thought Finn was giving Poe a hard time throughout the film when it wasn’t really deserved. Poe was actually quite solid here. He got the shaft in the first two films compared to the other two so it was nice to see him take more of an active role here. Poe is probably the closest we would get to Han Solo so it’s nice to have another hot shot pilot like him.

Meanwhile we’ve got Kylo Ren on the villain side. I still can’t take him all that seriously without his helmet because of how beat up he always looks. The guy can still fight though so ideally this should be enough to get you on his side. While I can’t go into detail on his character too much, I thought his portrayal here was pretty good. I consider it to be an improvement over how he looked in the last two films. His first scene in the movie is probably his best one though even if he made the wrong call in the end.

Part of why most of the characters are at their best here is because the writing is pretty solid. We get a good script with some nice humor included. Most of the characters make the rational choices time and time again. The villains are constantly in-fighting while the heroes keep using their bonds to get through tough times. It helps their resistance feel a little more realistic even if they probably should have been completely wiped off the map by now. I already covered the fights, but the effects in general are really great as well.

Princess Leia is one character who I felt had no real purpose in this film. She was one of those characters who was just here for nostalgia along with a bunch of cameos. We got a flashback scene with her and I feel like it should not have been included because it just makes her look terrible. The reason why she gave up something boils down to her being scared of the future and that’s always one of the worst reasons to abandon something. She also made some wrong calls with regard to certain secrets so overall she really didn’t help the troops much at all.

One interesting concept that the film dabbles with is how the force can allow you to be in multiple places at once and transcend space/time. It seems like an interesting take on the astral plane because in a way that’s how the characters are connected. It was cool to see how they would effect different places at the same time. One point where I don’t see how it worked is how both characters got a lightsaber at the end and you’ll know what scene I’m talking about when you watch the film. It’s possible one was on the ground, but if the force duplicated it then that might be stretching things a little bit. Otherwise I think this ability still makes sense and is effectively a further demonstration of the usual force ghost abilities.

It does always make you wonder why the heroes don’t use this more often to mess with the villains. It opens up an interesting can of worms since the heroes could have easily ruined the villain’s plans a lot sooner if they would act in the real world more. One of the novels explained why they do not, but most of those are not canon anymore so I’d like the films to address it at some point. The power levels are pretty good for the most part though so I don’t really have any issues there. The soundtrack is good as well even if a whole lot of it is really just re-used from older films. I’d like to start seeing some new music in any future films going forward.

It’s hard to pick what the best scene in the film is, but mine is possibly when two characters are struggling for control over a ship in the distance. It’s a really nice scene showing how persistent both characters are and was one of the best portrayals of their individual strength as well. It was also the right move for the hero to do there instead of retreating or following. Just grabbing the ship made the most sense so long as it was a feasible option and that’s exactly what happened. One scene where a character made the wrong move is when someone rightfully mentions that they should consider a potential counter and as he is going into detail on why they should think about it he gets silenced. I guess some people just don’t want to win….

This film has a little romance although fortunately not much. Unfortunately it wasn’t handled well at all. This doesn’t feel like a natural progression considering how much animosity was between the two characters. It’s great that they could move past this so quickly of course, but jumping to the next step was a bit soon. Time was of the essence I suppose so it might have been more of a gesture of friendship with one person feeling bad for the other, but no matter how you slice it I couldn’t really give this part a thumbs up.

Rise of Skywalker has a pretty satisfying ending that deals with everything more or less. There is one missed opportunity in my opinion though. One character gets one last line to end the film with and if it was one word different it would have been amazing. It would have probably been pretty controversial as well, but sometimes you gotta take some big risks. This isn’t a negative though as it’s a purely subjective change and either way it works well enough.

So, where does Rise of Skywalker rank overall? Well, I’d put it above pretty much all of the films except III which ages better each time and IV. It’s tough with V, Rogue One, and VI, but I may have to actually put this one above those. Here’s the thing, those films had a more interesting setup and better characters, but I would call this the stronger film. I’d sooner rewatch those in part because it’s been a while, but if we’re comparing initial viewings then I would have to pick this one. So initially I thought this was around middle tier, but this would actually put it near the top.

All in all, this third trilogy is the strongest one. It may have had a slight dip with the middle film, but it didn’t have any bad installments either. I still think the worst thing it did was basically make all of the old films pointless with the reveal in VII that the Empire is back, but after that it recovered well. I think it’ll definitely live on as a nice trilogy for new viewers who don’t necessarily want to go back to the older days. I am interested in seeing new films come out with a fresh cast and all though. One thing I still really want is more Jedi and Sith battles. I’d like some high end battles like in Episode III. This one had some good battles, but there was still nothing even close to the level of those.

Overall, Rise of Skywalker is a solid way to wrap up the Star Wars series. I think I covered about as much as I could without heading into spoiler territory. I won’t call it a great movie because despite the fast pacing it wasn’t always super engaging. I think in part this is because the big emotional moments don’t really land. Seeing some guest stars and throwbacks to the past is always fun and all but I wouldn’t call any of these scenes particularly powerful. The action and effects should still keep you busy though and the film is technically sound. The writing is good and at the very least you can see how there was a lot of effort put in here. I’d recommend checking this film out whether you are a Star Wars fan or not. You should be able to jump in and quickly understand what is happening thanks to the helpful opening text and the fact that the basic plot (large scale) is easy enough to understand. It’s a war and the empire is the evil side.

Overall 7/10